What more can I write about the North East, which I must here, used the term Prison of Nations? While New Delhi continues to wait and watch like a jailer since her independence, she let AFSPA complete 55 years, turning the entire north east region into a slaughter house. Heirangoithong Massacre, Oinam Massacre, Operation Rhino, Kakopathar Massacre, Tera Bazar Massacre, RMC Massacre, Malom Massacre, and so forth, which could only, increased the feeling of nationalism happened in front of every North Easterner’s eye. And people are still haunted with the memoirs of Miss Rose, Miss Luingamla, Ujanmaidan incident, Thangjam Manorama, Bhanimai Dutta, Raju Barua, Mamoni Koch, Sandimaya Tamang, Dulumaya Tamang, and the list goes on and on, all in just a blink only in the name of upholding Indian democracy, peace and integrity. Thus the Indian State and her fake brave warriors, unable to face like a real men, has shamelessly used the innocent people of the region as a pawn in its fight against the real warriors. Is it that only the armed revolutionaries from the North East can be hunted down using the immunity endowed by the Act prompting them to commit crimes not related to their line of work, but who still hides behind the safety and protection the law provides? In fact, rape is being used as the only main weapon to subjugate and terrify the entire population of the region since the Indian State fails to tackle the liberation movements which is old as India’s independence. This brazen form of repression was obviously the only response to the movements of the people of North East for their right to self-determination. But the question is – can a woman be gang raped, tortured and even murdered and these fake brave warriors of India who did it still get away scot-free? Why are they above the law?
In fact, the post 1947 war condition in North East as we notice today is largely and dominantly played by the Indian state in the name of upholding India’s peace and strategic interest. Till date, she is very much successful in exploiting the lethal weapon of divide and rule policy which was initiated by the British. The categorization of the same people from the same ancestor and same origin into two different classes such as general and tribal, hill and valley people supports my view. The result of course is hatred and antagonism instead of peace and harmony. Many felt that in the name of ceasefire and SoO the Indian State was actually legitimizing unrestricted use of arms by native agents who let lose a reign of terror in the region. It was aimed at encouraging the liberation guerrillas to fight amongst themselves till they completely destroyed each other and it would only fulfill Indian State’s interest to continue its rule in divided North East. But NSCN (IM) Ato Kilonser Thuingaleng Muivah’s recent statement, “It would be a blunder to believe India will solve our problem. We (Nagas and Meiteis) must decide for our own destiny and our future will be the outcome of this decision”, during a meeting with titular king of Manipur, Leishemba Sanajaoba at Hebron clearly indicates that we the people of North East had nothing to win from any kind of communal conflict engineered by the Indian State but only to tighten the chains that kept the people perpetually underdeveloped and oppressed. So I guess that the people of North East are not born anti-Indian. Whatever ill intention they have developed about India is due to the colonial image that the Indian system and structure of government has constructed for itself. If the seed is sown, it will be sprouted automatically.
Moreover, such consistent and continuous process of organized killings, that certainly constitute an alarming dimension of war, are carried out primarily to achieve vested material interests which are cloaked under the institutionalized jargons such as politics, collective identity and security. And thus ends in producing more and more criminal gangs of security forces who would use the banner of counter-insurgency and kill innocent civilians primarily for the purpose of looting money, property, gallantry award and promotion to higher rank. Such type of criminal and devilish activities of the Indian security forces have been exposed time and again in the international media. The seizure of a huge consignment of drugs from a group of smugglers led by PIB-DW, PRO Col Ajay Chowdhury in Manipur had proven how these Indian military forces have been continuously supplying intoxicating drugs and how, for long they have been scheming to get the people of North East addicted to drugs. Therefore, whatever peace loving posture that the Government of India propaganda may strike about itself and whatever its pacifists camouflage, its stuffing continued to be militant, aggressive and bellicose, and for the people of the region the whole spectre was nothing more than state terrorism. Thus, while New Delhi is busy in projecting the facade of an enthusiastic custodian of democracy and human rights in various international forays, she involved in the most brazen form of violation of basic human rights and trampling down of all tenets of democracy in her own North East.
New Delhi must be happy that North East today has become a playground for growing corruption, criminalization, repression and intimidation of large masses of the people. Encouraging privatization, the state over the last decade has been claiming development by recruiting a large section of the youths in the military forces to solve the unemployment problem. However, the dynamics at the level of production brought about by government planning and investment seemed too limited to keep pace with the demands even for basic consumption and thus are fulfilled by imports. Natural resources are no longer managed by the institutions of natives. The controversial Loktak Hydroelectric Project in Manipur forced many to starve in the dream of electric light which till today remains only a dream. Therefore, only the people whose subsistence economy has been broken down and who do not have enough food to eat, proper houses to live in and other basic facilities such as medicine, education, light and water and so on feel the pain of poverty and know what under-development is. The growth of a class of migrant workers, drivers, rickshaw pullers, coolies, wage labourers, barbers, workshops, petty shop owners or sellers in the shop, launderers, shoe menders, sweepers, rag pickers, orphans, prostitutes, emigration to earn outside the region, drop out of students and most importantly the immigrants issue are the developments in the region. The Indian State had always encouraged influx and has long been using the entire region as a dumping ground for refugees. Assam’s first Chief Minister, Gopinath Bordoloi had informed that Assam had already received about 2.5 lakh Hindu refugees from East Pakistan and that the state could not accommodate any more migrants. In his reply, dated May 18, 1949, Nehru said “if Assam adopts an attitude of incapacity to help solve the refugee problem, then the claims of Assam for financial help will obviously suffer.” What an interesting reply. One more point, I would very much like to mention here, is the fact that the Indian State, at the cost of the taxpayers’ money, have been manufacturing arms and recruiting soldiers and still Nehru washed his hands off when the invading Chinese army stormed Assam in 1962. What more can we expect than this? Therefore, I can proudly say that the only gifts and development project in North East till now, is only the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Therefore, in a mighty country like India, it is shameful for these so-called ‘protectors of the nation’ who are unable to go and give a fight without their savior legislations such as AFSPA. And they still have the guts to say “in a large army like ours, such incidents (molestation and rape) are likely to occur….” which only represents the gory saga of repressive and authoritarian character of the Indian State. And as if all these were not enough, New Delhi had already approved Rs. 11,000 crore project for the modernization of central paramilitary forces. Indian Army Chief, General Bikram Singh has been pushing for a new strike Corps, including new armoured divisions and artillery brigades to be raised in the region, all in the cloak of Chinese incursion. Assam Rifles, may be for more massacres, are readied with its fast and intense strike teams (FIST) in the region only in the name of counter insurgency. Thus, the recent arson, firing and high handedness by Assam Rifles on the innocent public in Kiphire, have proven again that the innocent peoples of North East region can be haunted anytime and anywhere whenever these so-called friends of the hill people desire. So it is simple – who is ruling the North East?
Ayekpam Basanta Mangang is a writer from Manipur.